Jan 042012
 
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Following on from my last post [iCloud Notes in Mozilla Thunderbird (The Story)] here is my How To for using Thunderbird to sync, add and edit your iCloud notes.

 

Step 0 – Presumptions

For this set up I am assuming you do the same as I do and don’t use me.com for email. We need to edit the folder used for Drafts to get the Notes to work and  this would obviously interfere with normal usage if you actually wanted to save an email as a draft email and not as a note!

 

Step 1 – Add Your iCloud Account to Thunderbird

Create a new mail account manually using the following details:

Type: IMAP
Server: p01-imap.mail.me.com (you can also use p02... or p03...)
Port: 993
Username: first part of your me.com email eg for fishface@me.com enter fishface
Connection security: SSL/TLS
Authentication method: Normal password

By now you should be able to see your Notes folder and any iOS notes will be shown as emails in this folder. If the Notes folder does not show up then right-click (or ctrl-click on Mac) the account in the left-hand pane and select ‘Subscribe’ then make sure that the ‘Notes’ folder is ticked (or ‘checked’ if you’re an American)

 

Step 2 – Make the Notes Folder Editable

By default, and for obvious reasons, you can’t edit an email that is already on the server. You can, however, edit Draft emails. If we set our Notes folder to act like Drafts then we will be able to edit the emails/notes within the folder.

To do this go to the account preferences by right-clicking (or ctrl-clicking on Mac) the xxx@me.com account in the left pane (as per Step 1, above, for subscribing to the Notes folder) but this time select ‘Settings…’ from the context menu. In the account settings select ‘Copies & Folders’ and then scroll down to ‘Drafts and Templates’. For ‘Keep message drafts in:’ you need to select ‘Other’ and then select the ‘me.com’ account and the ‘Notes’ folder.

This means that if you ever save an email (or note in our case) on this account then it will save it to the Notes folder. You can also double click any email/note in the Notes folder and Thunderbird will allow you to edit it.

You may also want to go to the ‘Composition & Addressing’ settings and untick (uncheck) the ‘Compose messages in HTML format’ option. This isn’t required but HTML in the notes can sometimes cause strange things to happen (see ‘Known Issues’ section near the end).

 

Step 3 – Enable the Apple-Specific Mail Header

For the Mac Mail app to ‘detect’ that they are notes and not emails the notes have an Apple-specific header in their source:

X-Uniform-Type-Identifier: com.apple.mail-note

The Mac Mail app then knows to show these as Notes and the iDevices check this folder then import the emails as notes in the Notes app in iOS. Having an email in the Notes folder alone is not enough for it to be treated as a note, it needs the special header. The simplest way to add this is to create a custom header option in the ‘to/cc/bcc’ dropdown area of the compose window. To do this go to Thunderbird Preferences then select the ‘Advanced’ tab and then ‘Config Editor…’. Accept the warning about dragons as shown below:

In the preferences list that is now shown enter ‘mail.compose.other.header‘ into the filter at the top.

Double-click the ‘mail.compose.other.header‘ line and enter the string value: X-Uniform-Type-Identifier and press ‘OK’.

You need to restart Thunderbird here for the custom header changes to take effect!

Step 4 – Compose Your Note

Now, when composing a new email/note, you will have an extra option in the ‘to/cc/bcc’ dropdown box for ‘X-Uniform-Type-Identifier’ as below:

And enter com.apple.mail-note for the value. Note that you do not need a ‘to’ address and if you enter one it will be ignored in the Notes apps. Once written it will look something like this:

When you have composed your note you need to save it and NOT send it! Trying to send it will give an error anyway as there are no recipients. To save it either click the ‘Save’ icon and then close the window or click to close the window and you will be prompted to save it as a draft. Saving it as a draft will save it to the iCloud IMAP Notes folder – which is exactly what we want. You will then see the note in Thunderbird and, if you open your iOS Notes app, you will also see it there:

 

Step 5 – Editing Notes

If you edit the note in the iOS Notes app then the subject will automatically be changed to the first line of the note text, in our example the subject becomes ‘Here is a note, written in Thunderbird!’. This is shown in both the Notes app and Thunderbird below:

To edit a note in Thunderbird simply double click it to bring up the compose window again and close/save it to save it back to the Notes (Drafts) folder. If the note does not appear in the iOS Notes app then you may need to close and reopen the app or edit the note in Thunderbird again to make sure you have added the X-Uniform-Type-Identifier header value as com.apple.mail-note.

 

Known Issues

Editing in Thunderbird is where some anomalies can occur. We set the iCloud account to use plain text (we turned off HTML email as an optional part of Step 2) and Thunderbird does honour this – if you view the message source you will see the content type header says:

Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1;

So double-clicking on a note to edit it will bring up the plain text editor without all the HTML formatting options such as bold and text colour etc. But notes that are either created or edited in the iOS Notes app are marked as being HTML emails with the header:

Content-Type: text/html;
	charset=utf-8

This means when you double-click to edit the note in Thunderbird you get all the HTML editing options. It also means that HTML headers are added to the message itself. For the note itself this is not an issue – it displays correctly in both Thunderbird and in the iOS Notes app. The issue relates to the subject header. Because the iOS Notes app insists on using the first line of the note as the subject i means it also copies some of the HTML code. While the HTML code itself is not shown in the subject it does show blank characters in its place making the subject indented as below:

If this happens to one of your notes then the quickest way to fix it is to open the note in the iOS Notes app, tap in the note to bring up the keyboard, tap and hold on the text, tap Select All, tap Copy, then tap the ‘delete’ key. This will have copied the text for the note and given you a blank canvas. Now you need to put the text back, which you do as follows: tap and hold the text area, tap on Paste and then tap Done. Now, go back to the list of notes and the subject should be back to normal.

 

Any Other Issues?

I’ve not come across any yet… But feel free to comment with any issues you have if you use this method (surely there can’t only be me that uses Thunderbird and iCloud Notes?!) or if you have any tips & tricks to add!